Fungus-resistant hazelnuts illustrate how genetic modification safeguards our food supply

| | April 16, 2019
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Newly planted hazelnut trees grow in an orchard. Image: Betsy Hartley
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Ordu is a picturesque city between the mountains and the Black Sea, where a quarter of the world’s hazelnuts grow. So when an untimely frost killed the budding flowers in trees across the region, Turkish hazelnut prices more than doubled, and the world’s largest hazelnut buyer, Ferrero SpA, had to raise the price of Nutella….

OK, the threat of a worldwide Nutella shortage may not be an existential crisis, but….the story of how researchers are working to fix this problem might point the way toward shoring up the entire food system.

It just so happens that there’s another part of the world, the East Coast of the United States, where the conditions are just right for hazelnut trees except for one giant problem: Eastern filbert blight, a fungus that slowly strangles hazelnuts.

Related article:  European companies, farm groups urge EU to revamp regulations that effectively ban CRISPR gene edited foods

For two decades, a team of scientists have been working to give hazelnut trees the genetic tools to fight off this blight. After some success, they’re beginning to release fungus-resistant trees to farmers….Repeat this process with a hundred crops, and you’ll have a much more sustainable food system.


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